Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

April 19, 2013

Iranian officials have warned citizens there not to view a Farsi-language blog operated by Haifa University, The Times of Israel reported. The warning followed reports in Iran about the popularity of the blog, which says it has more than 100,000 visits a month. One warning sent to Iranians said: "Beware of this site; it’s meant to recruit spies for the oppressing Zionist regime."

April 19, 2013

Boston University trustees have given $560,000 to launch a scholarship fund in memory of Lu Lingzi, the graduate student who was one of three people killed in a terrorist attack on the Boston Marathon on Monday. Lu's family members, who are traveling to Boston from China, have endorsed the effort as an appropriate honor.

April 19, 2013

Students at the London School of Economics have criticized their institution for its decision to expose the fact that BBC journalists accompanied them on a trip to North Korea, Times Higher Education reported. The university has lambasted the British broadcaster for using a student organization’s trip as “cover” for the filming of a documentary, arguing that “the students were not given enough information to enable informed consent, yet were given enough to put them in serious danger if the subterfuge had been uncovered prior to their departure from North Korea.” However, six of the 10 students on the trip have now issued a statement arguing that the university has further endangered them by publicizing the situation.

 “We feel that we have now been put in more risk than was originally the case, as a result of the LSE’s decision to go public with their story,” the students said, adding that they had not all been consulted by LSE officials regarding their own accounts of the trip.

The students said they were informed in London that a journalist would be accompanying them and of the risk of deportation or detention if that were discovered. LSE stands by its assertion that the students were not fully informed of the risks.

April 19, 2013

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has rejected calls to fire the education and science minister, Dmitry Livanov, The Moscow Times reported. Livanov has attracted controversy for seeking to reduce the number of universities through mergers or closures and decrease the number of state-funded student placements.

"I believe that a minister whom everybody likes is a person who most likely doesn't cope very well with his duties," Medvedev reportedly said.

April 19, 2013

Mary Sue Coleman announced Thursday that she will be retiring as president of the University of Michigan in July 2014. Coleman started at Michigan in 2002. While there, she backed numerous major research projects and pushed hard to raise private funds to offset state support that was for many years in steep decline. She also promoted the hiring of more junior faculty members and the decision to be one of the founders of Coursera, a provider of massive open online courses.

Also on Thursday, Michigan announced its largest ever gift -- $110 million for graduate fellowships and to create a residential space where 600 graduate students will live in a space designed to encourage interaction across disciplines and research approaches. The residence will be named for its donor, Charles T. Munger, a close associate of Warren Buffett's.

April 19, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Jay Huebner of the University of North Florida reveals the geographic evidence supporting reports of a historical meteorite impact. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

April 18, 2013

A new survey from ACT shows the continued gap between those who teach in high school and those who teach in college when it comes to their perceptions of the college preparation of today's students. Nearly 90 percent of high school teachers told ACT that their students are either “well” or “very well” prepared for college-level work in their subject area after leaving their courses. But only 26 percent of college instructors reported that their incoming students are either "well" or "very well" prepared for first-year credit-bearing courses in their subject area. The percentages are virtually unchanged from a similar survey in 2009.

April 18, 2013

Preliminary results of the vote at Montana State University to decertify its union shows the final margin will be even smaller than the decision to unionize in 2009, which won by a meager 12 votes. After the 375 ballots were counted at the Montana Department of Labor and Industry in Helena, the effort to decertify the Associated Faculty of MSU leads by five votes, 190 to 185. The union, which is affiliated with the statewide MEA-MFT, has challenged four ballots, while its opponents have challenged two.

April 18, 2013

A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled that a lower court was too quick to reject a former student's request for dismissal of a suit against her by Trump University. The student sued Trump University after she took some of its courses and they failed to live up to her expectations and claims she said were made in advertising. Trump University (which has since been renamed to remove "university" from its name, but which is called its former name in the ruling) then sued the student for defamation, and she tried unsuccessfully to have the suit dismissed. The appeals court on Wednesday ruled that it would be difficult to win a case against the student for defamation because Trump University was a much discussed institution (in part because of the celebrity of its founder, Donald Trump) and that debate about its quality was very much in the public sphere.

"We have very little difficulty concluding that a public controversy existed over Trump University's educational and business practices," the decision says. "As Donald Trump himself admits on the Trump University website, Trump University provoked public attention nearly from the outset, much of it derisive.... [A]ny general interest in Trump University stemming from its celebrity founder soon ripened in an actual dispute over Trump University's business and educational practices."

A lawyer for Trump University said that it would appeal, the Associated Press reported.

 

April 18, 2013

Pima Community College has been placed on probation by its regional accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The college's accreditation woes emerged last month, after a commission site team said it had found a broad range of complex problems at Pima, including concerns about governance and changed admissions policies. The team recommended probation, which the commission approved, notifying the college in a letter earlier this week.

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